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FCC Agrees To Examine VoIP Free Service

In agreeing to consider a request for approval of a free Internet calling service, the Federal Communications Commission signaled that it is moving towards solving a nagging VoIP problem: how to satisfy law enforcement agencies wanting to monitor or wiretap Web phone conversations.

The FCC has put a petition for a declaratory ruling on's Free World Dialup service on its agenda for next Thursday's commission meeting. Led by the FBI, law enforcement agencies have sounded the alarm that VoIP could interfere with their ability to monitor conversations by criminals and potential terrorists. By putting the Pulver petition on its agenda, the FCC has sent out a signal that it may declare the service free from regulatory oversight.

"By doing this," said VoIP advocate Jeff Pulver in a statement, "the FCC will send a strong signal to consumers and capital markets that the FCC is not interested in subjecting end-to-end IP communications services to traditional voice telecom regulation under the Communications Act."

Supporters of VoIP want the service to remain free of traditional telephony regulation, which is a stance also supported by the FCC. Approval of the Pulver service would be a step in that direction. Some security specialists have maintained that law enforcement agencies still will have ways of monitoring VoIP conversations once the service gains more traction and subscribers.